by Heather Self
I realize you might be thinking I’m just regurgitating stuff you’ve read elsewhere about goal setting (finding your why, gotta wanting it, so to speak). But there’s a valid reason all those sources keep saying it: Needing a why to keep you motivated as much of a truth as you needing to eat is. The power behind your why and the level of need/want is up to you, and is often determined by the goal.
But before you reach that goal, you have to have a why. Because without it, you won’t know why you want your goal, nor will you need it all that much. That’s how motivation works.
I speak to some people who say they’re never motivated to ever do anything.
“Do you eat?” I’ll ask.
“Yes,” they’ll say.
“Well, what motivated you to eat?” I’ll then ask.
“I was hungry,” comes the reply.
Why did they eat? They were hungry. Did they need to? Yes. Why? Because they were hungry. Did they want to? Yes. Why? Because they were hungry.
Same goes for thirst, sleep, bathing, and getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Every time you eat or use the bathroom, you’re doing it out of motivation. You have a why.
something, you’re doing it out of motivation. There’s a why, a need and a want. I’m sitting here, typing out this post because I have a why-need-why-want. Motivation doesn’t have to be a ginormous crash of inspiration that sustains you with a continual resource of power like you’re riding a tsunami that never strike a shore. Sometimes it’ll come as such, but, usually it won’t. Or, at least, it won’t stay like that. There’s an initial rush, but then it fades.
Having a strong (personal!) why that leads to a strong (personal!) need and (personal!) want, helps you blow through the negative self-talk that comes up.
It blows through the times you may feel frustrated and saturated with despair. (Remember, those times do not mean “no” necessarily).
There’s a Zen-like way to look at it: The obstacle is the path.
Sometimes lost motivation is your intuition telling you to pause because you need time to integrate what you’ve learned. The new ways of looking at obstacles. New skills. You aren’t Neo in The Matrix where you can just jack yourself into a computer and download fully-integrated skills.
However, there will be times when your motivation is not only gone, but so is the emergency stash of it you had tucked away.
This is when it’s time to get real with yourself and ask yourself some questions that may actually be somewhat hard:
Did you talk yourself out of it? Why?
Did someone else? Why?
Why did you let them talk you out of it?
Why did you decide they knew better, when you know, in your heart, your gut, in your dreams, it’s a goal that’s right for you?
I speak to so many clients who realize the life paths they chose were directed by Someone Else. Often parents. It’s the job of your parental units, to use the Coneheads term, to guide you. To a certain extent, and generally not past the age of 18 in my opinion, as most kids are pretty adult by then.
But In the name of Doing What’s Best for their children, parents inadvertently squelch the dreams of their children, thinking they’re giving them Guidance (capitalization done purposefully).
The child wants to become a teacher, but in the name of Doing What’s Best, the parents talk him or her out of it and into a Good, Solid, Proper Career of accounting or engineering. Sure, maybe the child has a great aptitude for numbers, but maybe they could be a math teacher. I remember speaking to a woman who became a lawyer on her parent’s Guidance, and had a very successful career…but she realized she was miserable and had never liked it.
She had followed her parents’ Guidance for that path, leaving her dream of becoming, I think, exactly what I used above: a teacher. She was in her mid-60s and was at a loss for what to do, as she felt so entrenched in her life and didn’t know how to extricate herself.
So it’s possible that the “why” you’re following miserably is someone else’s. This may be exactly why you’ve lost your motivation.
But it’s not always Well Meaning Parents who cause us to let go of our dreams and goals.
It can be husbands, wives, friends, sisters, brothers, cousins, and even ourselves when we lock onto something Society says we Shouldn’t Do (yes, capitalization done purposefully again).
But…why shouldn’t you? Yes, climbing a mountain can be dangerous, but if it’s a goal of yours, why not go after it?
Yes, going into the military can be dangerous, but if it’s something you want to do, why not join?
When I joined the US Air Force, my mother was very scared for me and wasn’t happy. But, instead of talking me out of it, she supported my decision, especially after I sat down and explained my reasons for wanting to go in. I was burned out from school, from my parents’ divorce and the ensuing custody battle. I felt like I had no skills, mentally or physically. I wanted to go to college, but I was in no shape to do so; if I went in right out of high school as she wanted, I knew I’d fail out. The military, I knew, would help me find all of that.
Though she still didn’t like it, she was more okay with it. So maybe, sometimes, those people who are trying to Guide us to what they want for us, for whatever reason, just need you to sit down and explain why you want a particular goal.
And that brings me to another point about your why: It must be for you and for you only. It must be INTERNAL, not EXTERNAL.
Meaning, if you set out on a goal or a why for someone else and only for someone else (e.g. proving yourself to other people instead of yourself), that motivation will burn out faster than a short match soaked in lighter fuel.
But there will always be naysayers (and I realize many people had big naysayers as parents, and it became a learned behavior to foster it as a habit into your own life). And the naysayers, especially when it’s an achievable goal, generally become so because they’re speaking from a fear of their own. Perhaps even out of disappointments of not going after their own goals.
I’ve had clients tell me that, as they begin to better themselves, create the life they want and make changes, family and friends tell them they “have no right” to make changes in their life.
Why does this happen?
Sometimes people will see your successes their failures.
Someone telling you, in one way or another, that you “have no right” to reach for your goals, is merely saying, “I have none of my own, I’m scared to have any, and I don’t want you to have yours, either.”
So one thing one thing to consider about creating motivation and finding your why is that if there’s someone in your life who continually tries to undermine your successes, beats you down rather than supports you–ask yourself if that person really worth keeping them in your life. Nobody should have to deal with that kind of toxicity on a daily basis.
As long as you’re actively taking some step every day, accomplishing some 1% for that day (even if that 1% might feel like it’s far less than the previous day or days), you’ll get there.
If you have a goal that’s been tapping at you and tapping at you and tapping at you…explore why you don’t. If you find that you don’t want it or need it because you’re afraid, work on why you have that fear, and from where it comes (if I listened to the person above and didn’t follow through on my goals, I’d be at the mercy of not only my fear, but theirs as well.)
Look for what’s keeping you from moving forward. It’s nearly always a form of fear and ill-fitting self-beliefs and beliefs about going after goals. Ask yourself why you hang onto them, why you’re still telling yourself you can’t. Once you get clear on those whys, the “why” for going after your goal can shine through and you can get your need/want balance in place.
Why. It always comes back to that. Why you need it. Why you want it.
Well, only you can answer that.